Keagan Harsha

BILLINGS (KPAX) — Former Montana Republican Congressman Denny Rehberg is eyeing a potential return to politics.

The now 68-year-old is considering whether to run for the seat that could be vacated by Rep. Matt Rosendale, should Rosendale officially announce his plans to challenge U.S. Sen. Jon Tester.

Rehberg served as Montana’s lone Congressman from 2000 to 2012. He departed politics after unsuccessfully challenging Tester, a Democrat, in 2012.

He then went on to own several fast-food franchises, mostly Popeye's Chicken and Burger King, in Montana. The last of those restaurants closed in 2023.

Rehberg says he had no plans to run for Congress until just last week when he learned his name was being tested in a poll for Rosendale’s seat.

“I hadn’t thought about it and when they called Friday night and said people still know you and some of them still like you that got me thinking about it,” Rehberg said.

Several other Republicans have also announced their intentions to run should Rosendale vacate the seat.

State Auditor Troy Downing, Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen, former state Senator Ric Holden, and state Senate President Pro Tem Ken Bogner are among the candidates vying for the seat.

Rehberg is a fifth-generation rancher from Billings. He says he believes his seniority would set him apart in the crowded field, but acknowledges the political landscape has changed dramatically in his 12 years since leaving office and that the country is especially divided when it comes to presidential politics.

“I’d rather have a Donald Trump who I can hear what he stands for and know what he wants to accomplish. I wouldn’t necessarily say things the same way he does, but I think he’s a better president than the one we have right now.

Rehberg has until March 11 to file for the Second Congressional District, which includes Billings and much of eastern Montana.

“I’d be happy to go back to Washington and fight the good fight,” Rehberg said.